The Paper Prodigy

Wedding dresses aren’t one-size-fits-all—why should invitations be? À Deux’s Kelli Parker creates bespoke stationery tailor-made to a couple’s personality and style.

a deux kelli parker

Photograph by Trevor Reid | Hair by Heather Cohen/TEAM

Boring. Cliché. Underwhelming. These are the words Kelli Parker uses to describe the stationery she found in catalogs when she was planning her wedding 10 years ago. Disappointed in her options, Parker took matters into her own hands by designing the invitations herself. Since then, she’s turned her DIY project into a full-fledged business, crafting one-of-a-kind stationery for clients in Boston and New York. “Every single design is created from scratch,” she says. “I take a couple’s emotional measurements and incorporate those into something that’s just for them.”

In this digital age, why are paper invitations still essential?

There’s a casualness that’s invaded weddings. I try to remind clients that whatever they decide to do for their stationery, it should feel important because it is important. Keep in mind that the invitation sets the tone for the entire weekend. Most weddings now are three-day events starting with a welcome cocktail on Friday and ending with a farewell brunch. Make sure the invitation fits the style of the wedding.

How do you incorporate things like theme, venue, and color into a stationery suite?

The whole look of the big day is a key component of the final stationery ­design. Some couples come prepared with colors in mind, which helps kick off the design process. If the wedding will take place in a garden setting, I try to incorporate seasonally appropriate foliage from the actual place. I’ll visit the venue if I can to look for architectural elements I can use as part of the design. Themed weddings are the ­easiest to design, because I’m usually working with an established color palette and a set of iconic design elements.

What happens when you meet with a couple for the first time?

I talk to them about what they’re hoping to achieve on their wedding day. I also ask about what kind of work they do, if they have pets, how they met, if they have specific preferences. I try to get to know them so I can make sure the stationery reflects their personalities as well as the feeling of the day. Ultimately, there are four things they need to think about: the envelope, the invitation itself, the response card, and the save-the-date.

What should the stationery timeline look like?

You should send your save-the-dates a minimum of six months in advance so your weekend can be reserved on someone’s calendar. If it’s a destination wedding or a holiday weekend, send them out a year in advance. Invitations traditionally go out six to eight weeks before the wedding. If it’s a destination wedding or people are traveling internationally, send them 10 to 12 weeks in advance. Thank-you notes should be sent out as soon as you receive a gift. The rule used to be that you have a year from the wedding date to send out your thank-you notes, and guests have a year to send gifts. That’s not true. I tell all of my couples to write their thank-you notes on the plane ride to their honeymoon. If you wait until you get back, you’re going to forget and it will take even longer to get them out.
What’s trending in wedding ­invitations right now?

Chevrons are still really hot. The next couple of wedding seasons, you’re going to see lots of hand-lettering and watercolors. Half of all the weddings I’m doing this year involve the shade of blush pink, which is nice. It’s very ­feminine, but can also be super-modern at the same time. I also think we’re seeing a return to formality. Lots of black-tie ­affairs and very traditional wording on the invitation, which I think is important.

Speaking of wording, figuring out how to phrase an invitation can be complicated. What factors should couples keep in mind?

These days, I think the idea that the host line needs to be very formal is relaxing a bit. Many of my clients are hosting on their own or together with their families, which is often reflected in the wording of the invitation. Some have such complicated family dynamics that they feel it’s much easier to say “­together with their families” than to list each parent, stepparent, et cetera. As long as what you’re doing makes sense, feels right, and isn’t going to offend, go for it! But always ask all parents what they are most comfortable with when it comes to the invitation before finalizing your wording. Yes, it’s your wedding, but it’s a big day for your families, too, so make sure you are ­being respectful of their feelings as well.

What’s the most outrageous ­stationery suite you’ve ever designed?

My most outrageous was for a couple in California. Her theme was Marie Antoinette at her most opulent—pink-and-gold everything. The invitation ­involved a custom silk box that was lined in faux fur. There were pink ­feathers and gold foil and pearls and gold leaf and ribbons that just had to come from France. It was such fun to go so far over the top.



Make a good first impression with these etiquette dos and don’ts from Kelli Parker.

Do: Include stepparents on the invitation, especially if they played a big part in your upbringing.

Don’t: Include your registry information on the invitation. It suggests that getting a gift is more important than having that person at the wedding.

Do: Use color. It’s a good way to make the stationery reflect your personality without going over the top.

Don’t: Use superfluous social titles or nicknames. Your mom may call you JJ, but if your name is Jude, go with Jude.

Do: Follow the “ladies first” rule. If a couple isn’t married but you’re sending them an ­invitation, the woman’s name always goes first.

Don’t: Put “adults only” on the invitation. If you don’t want kids at your wedding, put it someplace prominent on your wedding website, and people will get the hint.


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